God of the Sky, Thunder, Justice, Storms and Physical realm
Powers & Abilities
- Summon storms
- Control lightning
- Close the gates of heaven (Iriy)
- The Mother of Cheece Earth
Perun is a Slavic God of sky, thunder and rain. Svarog was also considered as God of sky, however, Perun ruled over physical, atmospheric realm, while Svarog ruled over Prav - Realm of Gods and spirits of dead.
Myths & Legends
Perun was tied to justice and order. He could punish evil people by closing the gates of Iriy (place in realm of Prav dedicated to virtuous people), or by striking them down with lightning bolts. The oak tree and ''perunika'' (iris germanica) flower were also his symbol.
As the God who had the strongest cult, next to Dažbog and Svarog, Perun was considered the most powerful God in Slavic folklore. Historians, not even today know if he was chief God of all Slavs. Because of his role of bringer of thunder and rain, all Slavs, no matter of tribe, paid him a tribute in form of food or ''dodole dancing'' to battle the drought, especially during Summer season.
He is represented as muscular, bearded warrior with a mastery of axes He rode burning chariot pulled by fiery-mane horses who breathed fire and sounds of thunder were actually sounds of His chariots.
Battle between Perun and Veles
Perun's main weapon was an axe, decorated with thunder marks, and golden apples. Whenever Perun tossed a golden apple into the air, they would transform into thunder and lightning. He used both against Veles - His arch-enemy.
There is story that Veles, in form of a horned serpent would slither his way to top of World Tree, causing Yav - human world to run dry. However, Perun would battle him with his axe and eventually kill the serpent, throwing him down to the ground and announcing victory by bringing rain and thunder. But Veles never dies and the cycle of battle, death and rebirth is repeating every time before rain happens.
Though Perun and Veles are pretty much neutral in mentality, their battle is still considered as battle between order and chaos.
Perun in Christianity
During Christianization of Slavs, there was religious phenomenon called ''dvoverje'' (having two faiths at same time). Slavs didn't want to abandon their Gods so easily. However, what Christian priests discovered is that days of celebration of their Gods is close to days of Christian Saints. And so people exchanged Perun with St. Elijah (who was also celebrated at 20th of July). St. Elijah among Southern Slavs was also called The Thunderer and got exactly same role as Perun - causing thunder and rain and riding burning chariots across the sky.
Another Thunder mark, seen on pottery and on stones used in building Orthodox Christian churches.
One of two known Thunder marks used by Perun and Slavs to protect their homes from thunder.
Perun (on top) versus Veles (down)
The evolution of Slavic mythology and religion began around 3, 000 years ago, reportedly sometime during the Neolithic or the Mesolithic period.
In Slavic mythology, God ordered the Devil to take a handful of sand from the sea bottom and create the world out of it (It’s the Devils fault when you get sand stuck in your shoes. Now it all makes sense.).
The Slavic religion is based on dualistic principles. There is a Black God who is mentioned in curses and a White God to whom people send their pleas for protection, mercy and welfare.
The Slavic religion has a number of common traits with other religions that descended from the Proto- Indo- European religions.
The religion of the Slavic people is polytheistic, and Slavic mythology is just one aspect of it.
The Slavic religion refers to the pre-Christian religious practices among Slavs on the territory of Eastern Europe.
Unfortunately, there are only fragments of information about the legends and myths of pagan Slavs which makes it very hard to trace the history of their religion and to reconstruct the Slavic pantheon.
Many of the beliefs and deities of the ancient Slavs are focused on the interpretation that the world is inhabited and directed by mysterious forces and gods.
In the later stages of communal development, in the areas where the Slavic tribes started living an organized cultural life (and met foreigners), the spirituality slowly abandoned its primitive form and anthropomorphized the natural spirits into divinities and deities with supernatural powers.
One such deity was Perun, who was considered to be the supreme god (the god of thunder and lightning).
He was the owner of the sky and a patron saint of the army.
The Myth of God Perun
First time Perun was mentioned (in writing), was in the 6th century, in the chronicles written by a Roman historian, Procopius. His alternate name was Bog (which is now a Slavic word for God).
The primary sources that mentioned his existence were Nestor’s chronicles, the mid-6th century chronicles of Procopius and the 10th-century Varangian treaties.
When it comes to the historical development of Slavic mythology, folklorists believe that Perun superseded the god of the sun Svarog (who was the supreme god before Perun).
As a liberator and a deity with traits of a warrior, Perun was presented as a pagan warrior of heaven and protector of warriors.
He was also praised as the god of agriculture, whit bulls being sacrificed in his honour.
In 988, when the leader of the Kievan Rus, Prince Vladimir I introduced Christianity into his lands, he pulled down the statue of Perun and threw it into the waters of the Dnieper River (modern-day Ukraine).
Many years later, people were throwing golden coins into the river in order to honour the Slavic god Perun.
Perun was represented as a man who was strong, healthy and full of energy.
His beard was red, his moustache was golden, and his hair was silver (So, he looked like an average hipster?).
He was armed with the axe of Perun, a hammer and often a bow (which he used to shoot the arrows of thunder and lightning).
He was often represented as an ox or as a mighty oak (sacral tree of Slavs).
Some illustrations depict him as an eagle sitting on the top of a tree, while his enemies, the god Veles and dragons are curled around the roots of the tree.
On other images, we see him as a brave warrior riding a chariot drawn by goats.
Perun is also associated with Thursday because of the word “Perendan” which was the Slavic word for Thursday. In the past, the day of celebration of Perendan or Perun’s day was on June 21 (the day of the summer solstice).
The Mythical Characteristics of Perun
The family of the god Perun was quite extensive (to say the least).
His wife was the Great Mother, goddess of the sun Mokosh. His mother was the goddess of love, joy and fertility called Lada.
His children were Marzanna, the goddess of winter and death- also known as Morana, the god Jarvlo, god of spring and agriculture and Dziewanna, the goddess of wilderness and hunting .
As the god of thunder, lightning and war, Perun used an axe as a weapon, a bow and a hammer.
He also used golden apples as lightning grenades.
Slavic people carried thunderstones (a type of axe) to protect themselves from diseases and misfortunes. Thunder marks were engraved on rooftops and entries of village houses, as a symbol of Perun.
Slavic people believed that anytime a storm would appear, it was actually the god’s anger towards the god Veles or his response to some injustice that had happened.
The Battle Between Perun and Veles
The myth about the battle between Perun and Veles tells the story of the god Veles (represented as a serpent) who strived to climb to the top of the World Tree and by doing so (striving, I mean) he caused a drought in the world of humans.
Perun was enraged by this, so he fought the serpent with an axe and killed him.
The drought was stopped and balance was restored.
Veles, of course, didn’t actually die during the battle. He rose up from the grave and challenged Perun to battle, once again. That’s why the Slaves believed that the cycle of battle (death and rebirth) happened every time before rainfall.
In the broader sense, the battle between Perun and Veles is considered as a battle between chaos and order – the main mysterious phenomena in every mythology and the greatest motivation to create stories and narratives (in folklore).
The ancient sources can be traced back to the middle of 500 CE, when the Byzantine scholar Procopius mentions Perun as the “maker of lightning” worshipped by the Slavs.
In these historical records, Perun is also referred to as the supreme god to whom cattle were sacrificed. In addition, Perun (as a deity) appears in old Rus treaties, dating back to 907 CE.
In the year 945, the Rus leader Prince Igor and the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII made a treaty in which the army of Igor is mentioned as a group of unbaptized men who laid down their weapons and took an oath at the statue of Perun.
Moreover, the Chronicle of Novgorod (compiled between 1016 and 1471) describes the attack on the shrine of Perun as an event that provoked a serious uprising.
The primary myth about Perun, however, tells the story of creation in which he takes a stand against the god Veles and enters into a battle with him. Veles is the god of the underworld who attacks the goddess Mokosh.
Perun defends Mokosh and the freedom of atmospheric water (rain in essence) and in doing so, he gains glory and control over the entire universe.
Perun After Christianization
The most obvious alteration of the myth of god Perun appeared after the Christianization of the Slavic people, in the 11th century.
The cult of Perun became associated with St. Elias (also known as Elijah or the Holy Prophet Ilie, Ilija Muromets, Ilia Gromovik) who is described as a fearless rider of the sky chariot .
When St. Elias wanted to punish his enemies, he used the power of lightning bolts. According to some theories, the myth of Perun was invented by the Vikings, although this theory has never been completely confirmed nor proved.
Reportedly, Prince Vladimir I, the tsar of Kievan Rus (ruled from 980 to 1015 CE) invented the Slavic pantheon by combining the tales of Greek and Norse mythologies.
This theory was initially exposed between the 1930s and 1940s through by the German anthropologists Erwin Wienecke and Leonhard Franz (they were a part of the German Kulturkries movement).
The opinion of these experts was quite imperialistic.
They believed that the Slavic people were not capable of inventing and developing a complex religious system beyond what was then known as animism and that they certainly couldn’t create one without the assistance of the “superior, master” race.
In fact, Vladimir I erected statues of the gods Perun, Dazhbog, Khors, Striborg, Mokosh and Simargl near the territory of today’s Kyiv.
- Russian mythology
- Polish mythology
However, some historians claim that there is evidence that the statue of god Perun was there decades before.
This statue was made of wood. The head of the god was made of silver while the moustache was made of gold.
The book “Slavic Gods and Heroes” continues examining this riddle and argues that Perun was possibly invented in Kievan Rus’ between 911 and 944.
After Slavic people converted to Byzantine Greek Christianity, Vladimir I removed the statues and thus began the so-called modernization of Kievan Rus and the facilitation of trade between the two nations.
The Slavic god Perun and its historical origin will remain a mystery since there is only a small number of pre- Christian documents that talk about the details of Slavic cultures.
Finally, Perun is present in other mythologies as well through his deity equivalents.
The Lithuanians call him Perkunas, the Romans Jupiter, the Greeks Zeus, the Albanians the goddess Pirpiruna or the goddess Perperona (for the Romanians).
The Norse people know him as Thor/Donar. In Celtic mythology, he is called Taranis while the Hindi myths address him as Parjanya.
Perun, Slavic God of the Sky and Universe
In Slavic mythology, Perun was the supreme god, the god of thunder and lightning, who owned the sky and acted as the patron saint of ruling army units. He is one of the few Slavic gods for which evidence exists at least as long ago as the 6th century CE.
Fast Facts: Perun
- Alternate Name: Bog
- Equivalents: Lithuanian Perkunas, Roman Jupiter, Greek Zeus, Norse Thor/Donar, Latvian Perkons, Hittite Teshub, Celtic Taranis, Albanian Perendi. Related to a series of rain gods and goddesses such as Hindi Parjanya, Romanian Perperona, Greek Perperuna, Albanian Pirpiruna
- Culture/Country: Pre-Christian Slavic
- Primary Sources: Nestor's Chronicle, mid-6th century Procopius, 10th-century Varangian treaties
- Realms and Powers: The sky, leader of all the other gods, control of the universe
- Family: Mokosh (consort and goddess of the sun)
Perun in Slavic Mythology
Perun was the supreme god of the pre-Christian Slavic pantheon, although there is evidence that he supplanted Svarog (the god of the sun) as the leader at some point in history. Perun was a pagan warrior of heaven and patron protector of warriors. As the liberator of atmospheric water (through his creation tale battle with the dragon Veles), he was worshipped as a god of agriculture, and bulls and a few humans were sacrificed to him.
In 988, the leader of the Kievan Rus' Vladimir I pulled down Perun's statue near Kyiv (Ukraine) and it was cast into the waters of the Dneiper River. As recently as 1950, people would cast gold coins in the Dneiper to honor Perun.
Appearance and Reputation
Perun is portrayed as a vigorous, red-bearded man with an imposing stature, with silver hair and a golden mustache. He carries a hammer, a war ax, and/or a bow with which he shoots bolts of lightning. He is associated with oxen and represented by a sacred tree—a mighty oak. He is sometimes illustrated as riding through the sky in a chariot drawn by a goat. In illustrations of his primary myth, he is sometimes pictured as an eagle sitting in the top branches of the tree, with his enemy and battle rival Veles the dragon curled around its roots.
Perun is associated with Thursday—the Slavic word for Thursday "Perendan" means "Perun's Day"—and his festival date was June 21.
Was Perun Invented by the Vikings?
There is a persistent tale that a tsar of the Kievan Rus, Vladimir I (ruled 980–1015 CE), invented the Slavic pantheon of gods out of a blend of Greek and Norse tales. That rumor arose out of the 1930s and 1940s German Kulturkreis movement. German anthropologists Erwin Wienecke (1904–1952) and Leonhard Franz (1870–1950), in particular, were of the opinion that the Slavs were incapable of developing any complex beliefs beyond animism, and they needed help from the "master race" to make that happen.
Vladimir I did, in fact, erect statues of six gods (Perun, Khors, Dazhbog, Stribog, Simargl, and Mokosh) on a hill near Kyiv, but there is documentary evidence that the Perun statue existed there decades earlier. The statue of Perun was larger than the others, made of wood with a head of silver and a mustache of gold. Later he removed the statues, having committed his countrymen to convert to Byzantine Greek Christianity, a very wise move to modernize the Kievan Rus' and facilitate trade in the region.
However, in their 2019 book "Slavic Gods and Heroes," scholars Judith Kalik and Alexander Uchitel continue to argue that Perun may have been invented by the Rus' between 911 and 944 in the first attempt to create a pantheon in Kyiv after Novgorod was replaced as the capital city. There are very few pre-Christian documents related to the Slavic cultures which survive, and the controversy may never be sufficiently resolved to everyone's satisfaction.
Ancient Sources for Perun
The earliest reference to Perun is in the works of the Byzantine scholar Procopius (500–565 CE), who noted that the Slavs worshipped the "Maker of Lightning" as the lord over everything and the god to whom cattle and other victims were sacrificed.
Perun appears in several surviving Varangian (Rus) treaties beginning in 907 CE. In 945, a treaty between the Rus' leader Prince Igor (consort of Princess Olga) and the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII included a reference to Igor's men (the unbaptized ones) laying down their weapons, shields, and gold ornaments and taking an oath at a statue of Perun—the baptized ones worshipped at the nearby church of St. Elias. The Chronicle of Novgorod (compiled 1016–1471) reports that when the Perun shrine in that city was attacked, there was a serious uprising of the people, all suggesting that the myth had some long-term substance.
Perun is most significantly tied to a creation myth, in which he battles Veles, the Slavic god of the underworld, for the protection of his wife (Mokosh, goddess of summer) and the freedom of atmospheric water, as well as for the control of the universe.
After Christianization in the 11th century CE, Perun's cult became associated with St. Elias (Elijah), also known as the Holy Prophet Ilie (or Ilija Muromets or Ilja Gromovik), who is said to have ridden madly with a chariot of fire across the sky, and punished his enemies with lightning bolts.
Sources and Further Reading
- Dragnea, Mihai. "Slavic and Greek-Roman Mythology, Comparative Mythology." Brukenthalia: Romanian Cultural History Review 3 (2007): 20–27.
- Dixon-Kennedy, Mike. "Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend." Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO, 1998. Print.
- Golema, Martin. "Medieval Saint Ploughmen and Pagan Slavic Mythology." Studia Mythologica Slavica 10 (2007): 155–77.
- Kalik, Judith, and Alexander Uchitel. "Slavic Gods and Heroes." London: Routledge, 2019.
- Lurker, Manfred. "A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons." London: Routledge, 1987.
- Zaroff, Roman. "Organized Pagan Cult in Kievan Rus’. The Invention of Foreign Elite or Evolution of Local Tradition?" Studia Mythologica Slavica (1999).
Symbol perun god
.Perun Slavic God of Thunder
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